Ireland votes on Lisbon

By staff

The polls open today on Ireland’s pivotal vote on the Lisbon treaty, with political leaders desperately urging voters to ratify the reforms.

Irish prime minister Brian Cowen is optimistic voters will accept the treaty today, after rejecting it a year ago in a move that sent shockwaves throughout European capitals.

Critics are livid that another vote is taking place at all, and treat the referendum as proof that the EU will simply ask countries to vote until they give the ‘right’ result.

Ireland now holds the future of the EU in its hands. Of the EU’s 27 nation states all but it, the Czech Republic and Poland have ratified the Lisbon treaty, which will put a streamlined decision-making process at the heart of the European project.

Most centrists in Ireland are lobbying for a ‘yes’ vote but those further to the left and right are campaigning hard for a ‘no’.

Those on the right insist the EU could override Ireland’s opposition to abortion and euthanasia and raise taxes.

But a ‘no’ vote would rock Mr Cowen’s already unpopular government to its foundations, and introduce serious questions as to how Ireland plans to survive the effects of the financial crisis.

“We face a clear choice on Friday,” Mr Cowen said yesterday.

“Will we move forward together with Europe or will we take an uncharted and more uncertain road?”

But Declan Gantley, whose campaigning helped ensure the ‘no’ vote last time, is predicting a rejection of the treaty.

“We have to reject it, go back to the drawing board, and then come back with a better plan,” he told Associated Press.

“The Irish people are not going to be taken for fools, and as pro-Europeans, we’ll vote this thing down.”

The treaty would introduce an EU foreign minister and president.

The latter role is being coveted by Tony Blair. Last week, the Liberal Democrats voted to oppose him taking the position.